GOP seeks stronger ethics laws as FBI probes Lamont administration's handling of state funds
Republicans are calling for stricter ethics laws amid an ongoing FBI investigation into how Gov. Ned Lamont's administration spent state money.
In his State of the State speech last week, the governor promised accountability.
"I will hold anyone who breaches that trust, starting in my administration. I'm going to hold them accountable," he said.
But new documents suggest Lamont's office missed, or ignored, warnings about Kosta Diamantis, a former budget official who was in charge of doling out state money for school construction. The FBI is now investigating whether he steered projects to preferred contractors, one of whom hired his daughter.
Diamantis denied wrongdoing to CT Mirror, saying, "It should be made clear that OPM and DAS did not interfere with bidding process through school construction projects … The fact of the matter is that towns can use state contracts if they choose or they can go out to bid as part of a larger project."
Former Chief State's Attorney Richard Colangelo also hired Diamantis' daughter while lobbying her father for raises. Colangelo chose to retire last week to avoid removal proceedings by the state Criminal Justice Commission. Anastasia Diamantis is now on administrative leave.
On Wednesday, Connecticut House Republicans called for a series of new ethics laws, including a new inspector general with subpoena power. They also want quasi-public agencies like the Connecticut Port Authority, which oversees the State Pier in New London, to face oversight from the State Contracting Standards Board and be subject to the same contracting rules as state agencies.
Diamantis oversaw a multi-million rehab of the pier facility. The FBI has also asked the Lamont administration to turn over those documents.
"We need to peel back all these contracts. You know, whether it is school construction, test kits, the Sema4 contract. There's a lot of questions that have been raised," said House Minority Leader Vin Candelora.
Lamont removed Diamantis last fall. But more than a year earlier, a demolition company wrote the Lamont administration to complain about "an effort to circumvent the lawful public bidding requirements." Several months later, Stamford Wrecking Company took their concerns to Connecticut Attorney General William Tong.
Tong's office issued a statement to News 12: "Upon receiving this letter, our office had multiple conversations with Attorney Garcia and immediately referred this information to appropriate authorities. There is an open criminal investigation into related matters and we cannot comment further."
But that wasn't the only red flag.
In July 2020, the Connecticut State Building Trades Council provided Lamont's office with a memo accusing Diamantis of skirting state open bidding rules by designating some projects as "emergencies."
"Kostas Diamantis has openly disparaged and tried to dissuade owners and municipalities from utilizing PLAs [Project Labor Agreements] ," the memo stated. "There is a shroud of secrecy over this Trade Labor List or State Contract List."
The union says they never voiced their concerns to the governor directly. Lamont insists he never knew of any issues before the FBI got involved.
"No, not that I remember. You know, sometimes a disgruntled contractor, but I never heard anything like that, no," Lamont said Monday.
The House Republican leader does not buy Lamont's response.
"To suggest that he can't recall whether or not he read that memo is pretty appalling," Candelora said.